Monday, April 11, 2011

They’re all Special, and All Equally Irrelevant

Like a Chamber of Commerce from hell, or a disturbing recurring clown dream, the EU is replete, if not festooned with “Presidents.”


The Lisbon (Portugal) Treaty creates an all-powerful “President of the European Council” (POEC).

This is additional to the existing roles of “President of the European Commission”(POCO) and “President of the European Parliament” (POPE). There is also a “rotating” President-in-Office of the European Council (PORC).

This is the same “European Council” as mentioned in the first paragraph. However, we observe no matching rotating “President-in-Office” of either the Commission or Parliament. Thus, the “Council” is the only EU institution with a rotational element in its presidential structure.

There is also a “President of the Committee of the Regions” (POCE) and a “President of the Economic and Social Committee” (PESC), two EU institutions operating quietly in the background. These two Committees (not real committees as they are not subordinate parts of a bigger entity) are nothing to do with the 22 committees of the European Parliament, which are subordinate but nevertheless have their own “presidents”.
Maybe they can use a kaleidoscope of other superlatives, like El Hefe, Pimp Daddy, or maybe just Christ almighty to differentiate themselves from one another.
We need more time to reach considered conclusions as to the purpose and relative values of all these presidential positions, and the many others we have uncovered.

For instance, the European Court of Justice has a “President” as does the European Court of Auditors and the European Central Bank. Other EU-related bodies using the term include the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and the Community Plant Life Variety Office. The term “president” seems to be accorded to anyone of even marginal authority in the EU system.

Unlike our own system, there is little appetite in Europe for terms such as “Speaker”, “Governor” or “Chairman”. The idea of, for example, US Senate and House Committee leaders being titled “Chairman”, to ensure clear (downward) separation from the Head of State, is unfamiliar.

This confusing focus on “president” status in Europe is blamed on the French language, which uses the term for both “President” and “Chairman” in political life. Without the French influence, the vast majority of EU positions carrying the term “president”, would, in English, be reduced to “chairman” or something less.

The French language is also blamed for the plethora of EU committees often termed “commissions”, causing confusion with the status of the European “Commission”, which is not a committee.
That implies that there is some actual reason to communicate with any of them or try to sort out their gauntlet of completely unjustified self-importance.